Thursday, September 26, 2019


As the impeachment inquiry got underway, Yastreblyansky expressed the concern that Democrats in the House are effectively dropping their efforts to hold President Trump accountable for other crimes and abuses.

Knowing that the Senate is certain to acquit, he wrote this about the purpose of impeachment:
... busting Trump must ... serve a function of public education, as busting Nixon did, because too many people don't see what he did as particularly wrong, and point the way to some needed reforms, like requiring presidential candidates to be transparent with their finances and presidents-elect to divest, and tightening the definitions of emoluments and nepotism, and protecting federal civil servants from intimidation and retaliation by political appointees, and so forth. Somehow separating DOJ from the White House. These things are desperately needed, and the impeachment inquiry provides the basis for understanding them (as the Watergate affair really did stimulate important reforms in election regulation).
He also thought the likely timing of a quick, narrowly focused impeachment process was wrong:
Tactically ... the correct time for an impeachment is in spring 2020, when it's already clear who the Democratic nominee is and the Republicans, with little in the way of primaries to occupy them, aren't prepared, and the correct subject matter for an impeachment is the president's conduct as enabled by the Republican party. It doesn't really matter who our nominee is, from this perspective, as long as the public has a picture of Trump doing whatever he wants, from getting the Air Force to pour per diem expense money into Turnberry to assisting Saudi Arabia in committing crimes against humanity for the sake of a loan on easy terms, while the Republicans passively watch.

Not something the general public stops thinking about before Christmas 2019, after the Senate finds him not guilty of doing some weird thing.... Something they start thinking about in the weeks before the Republican convention and first inter-party debates.
Initially, I was fine with a tightly focused impeachment process:

But the more I think about it, the more I don't like the sound of this:
House Democrats are coalescing around a strategy to narrow the focus of their impeachment inquiry to President Donald Trump's interactions with the president of Ukraine....

Although there is no explicit deadline to act and no decisions have been made, some Democrats said they were hopeful articles of impeachment could be considered by the end of the year or even sooner.
"We gotta move fast," Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and committee member, told CNN.

The fear, Democrats say, is that the longer the Ukraine controversy hangs out there, the more likely it is to die down - and the public could lose interest.
It's as if they know that the Ukraine story isn't inherently interesting to ordinary Americans, who might not even be able to grasp why the president's behavior was unlawful.

I don't think it's important to time impeachment as carefully as Yastreblyansky proposed, but why the rush? I can't help wondering whether Pelosi and others just want to get it over with because they assume that most voters oppose impeachment (true, though that can change, as it did during Watergate). I suspect that the Pelosi faction wants most of the public to forget impeachment by Election Day 2020. I fear they're going along only because -- as The Intercept's Ryan Grim explained a couple of days ago -- the most active rank-and-file Democrats, the ones who make campaigns possible, have been haranguing Democratic House members about impeachment (with the implicit threat that they won't join campaigns in 2020 if there's no effort to impeach), and because the failure to impeach has led to an increasing number of primary challenges from disgruntled progressives. I worry that Pelosi et al. just want to toss us an impeachment and get it over with.

However, this approach has the support of a lot of Very Smart People:

Chris Matthews says:
Right now is a vital moment in American history. The Democrats in the House of Representatives have to seize that moment and not let it get away, away to other topics, other areas of complaint, other misdeeds by this president.
Why? Why do Beltway insiders think this is the most devastating charge that's been leveled against Trump?

I agree with Matthews about this:
So don't let this historic abuse of presidential power get driveled away in a fog of subpoenas, document demands, deadlines, and eroding headlines.
The Democratic approach to impeachment up till now has been terrible: demands for documents that are never provided and witnesses who either don't show up or don't talk, endless waits for courts to rule -- it's not working.

But the risk of impeaching now strictly on Ukraine is that this is the only shot Democrats will get before the election -- if they impeach on this, the public will infer that Russia, the Stormy Daniels payoff, and even emoluments aren't impeachable.

I think the public has already come to that conclusion about Russia, regrettably, and the Stormy Daniels story seems like a consensual-adultery scandal, the kind of thing voters are inclined to give a president a pass on. But Democrats shouldn't give up on emoluments. They're very easy for voters to understand.

While the impeachment process will be all about Ukraine, we're told that other investigations won't be suspended.
Democrats had been focusing their impeachment inquiry effort on allegations of self-dealing and obstruction of justice. Under the proposed plan, House committees would continue to pursue probes of those issues.
Pelosi says Ukraine is paramount, but at least seems willing to consider other subjects:
“This has clarity and understanding in the eyes of the American people,” Pelosi told her leadership team, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. “If we do articles, then we can include other things.”
Good -- they should at least vote on articles of impeachment that cover other areas. Democrats are going to lose the trial in the Senate, so what's the point of waiting until they have an airtight case? Just get a range of Trump's corrupt acts out there -- or at least a representative sample. Ukraine isn't enough to convey the broad sweep of Trump's unfitness to serve.

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